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Us 14, United States 12, Iran 12, Israel 9, Steve 7, Dennis 5, Nick 3, Jeff Goldberg 2, Iaea 2, United 2, Eu 2, Istanbul 2, Baghdad 2, The United States 1, United States Lead 1, Peck 1, Obama 1, Attenuated 1, Denny 1, Nick Burns 1,
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  CSPAN    [untitled]  

    May 17, 2012
    4:00 - 4:30pm EDT  

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lessons of how we got to where we are. steve said it. you know, the only thing that's different between 15 months ago is the iranians are under dramatically more pressure. 15 months ago, they weren't going to talk about their nuclear program, unless we dropped all of the sanctions and recognized the right to enrich as a condition for going to talks. not only do we intensify the sanctions, we didn't recognize the right to enrich, and they're back at the talks, talking about their nuclear program and the confidence building measures they said they wouldn't engage. so we need to learn the lessons also from where we seemingly have moved them. >> steve? >> to reiterate, i think we need to keep our eye on iran's enrichment program, have to get a handle on that program, and we need to insist on full implementation of the security council resolutions, not just of the 20% enrichment program, but the other 3.5%. >> and how do we enforce that, if we -- how do we enforce that? >> well, you were asking, what should we do in the negotiation? that should be our baseline.
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how do we enforce that? well, we keep bringing pressure to bear. and i think this is the additional point i wanted to make about our strategy in the meantime. if you think about it the way i outlined it, for whatever the duration of these negotiations, iran is not going to stand down. they are going to keep enriching both to the 3.5% level and to the 20% level as fast as they possibly can. and they're going to be deploying additional centrifuges and moving full speed ahead because they know that increases the pressure on us. if this negotiation process is going to become attenuated at all, we need to do the same thing. we need to continue ratcheting up our pressure throughout the process. history says to me that's unlikely. because history says to me, every time our diplomats get into a negotiating process, they say, oh, no, no, we send a wrong signal here. it would be disastrous for us to do anything provocative. even if it the united states doesn't could that, i worry the
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europeans would do that and more so the chinese, the russians and others. so we cannot allow that to happen. if iran is going to continue enriching during this process, we have to continue ratcheting up the sanctions. otherwise we're in a losing scenario here. >> nick? >> warren, i think the problem in both democratic and republican administrations in the past is that we haven't believed in diplomacy enough to give it a real try. every administration from jimmy carter to reagan on through to barack obama has had one or two disyou will tree meetings with the iranians in some conference room in vienna or geneva and that's it. so here's the problem for us. we're in an overheated political environment, we're in an election year. and some people will want to set up a construct that if the president doesn't succeed within a month or two, he'll have failed. and that's not in our interest. we've got to have more patience, and a longer-term strategic view. so i would say, commit ourselves to a serious bout of diplomacy. diplomats aren't soft. diplomats can negotiate and
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sanction at the same time, and i would agree with steve, that we ought to maintain the pressure on the iranians. that's why they're at the table. i would heighten the sanctions, implement the central bank sanctions, have the eu follow through with the oil embargo during the course of the negotiations and with dennis, at some point, we have to call it quits. at some point, we have to set a time limit and say this is as much time as we've got. but that's -- i would be very reluctant to give the president advice -- the administration advice on what time should be. because they will know so much more about the realities of the negotiations than the four of us can know. so i would say pressure, but you've got to believe in diplomacy just enough to give us a chance. >> yeah. >> a lot of -- i think very useful things said, which i would agree, but i would add one thing. which is we cannot appear -- this is easier to say than to do, but we cannot appear to the iranians desperate or even overly eager for a deal. we have to convince them -- they'll be studying our
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negotiators, our political system, our president, in an effort to figure out, of course, what they can get. and if they believe -- even wrongly, if they believe that we really, really want a deal and we'll do anything to get a deal, if we're chasing them to get a deal in their perception, that's going to be very harmful to getting a diplomatic outcome that we like. so you know, this is where we get back to the disagreement about the one-on-one meetings. if they believe we are so desperate to get one-on-one meetings, we're chasing them, we're inviting them, we're following them, they will misperceive the strength of the american position. and actually, our position is strong, and theirs is weak. and we need to remember that. >> well, if approximate somehow some level of military danger sort of accompanies these negotiations and since i think it is not likely they will believe that this is going to come at this point from the united states, does it make sense for the united states to
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provide what the bipartisan policy center has recommended, namely, the refuelling capacity and the bunker-busters of the higher levels of capacity that might in a sense at least extend the period of time during their -- during which there is negotiation, but also give creditability to the possibility that the israelis, if there is no solution diplomatically, will, in fact, respond. >> i would be in favor of it. partly for the reasons that you have suggested, and partly also for the reasons that it has on the other members of the five plus one. i think many of us sort of noted this at the beginning of the conversation. you know, it is hard to believe that you would have the eu adopting a sanction on procuring oil if it wasn't that they felt this was the one way to demonstrate to the israelis that we're so serious that the israelis have a reason to wait and see whether diplomacy can work. the more it becomes very clear that, in fact, the military option is real, the more it
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gives diplomacy a chance to succeed. first it convinces the other members of the five plus one that they really do have to hold together, so that, in fact, diplomacy can succeed. secondly, it has an effect on the iranian perception so the iranians, in fact, don't misperceive the will that we have. and i suspect that, you know, when you think about the very meaning of coercive diplomacy, you know, this is the logic of it. if we want diplomacy to succeed, the iranians have to believe that force is, in fact, the likely alternative if they don't allow this process, in fact, to work out. >> steve? >> i obviously support that recommendation. i was part of the bpc task force that made the recommendation. i was pleased to see last week the house of representatives adopted legislation endorsing that recommendation, calling for the transfer of aerial refueling cape skpblt bunker-buster munitions to israel. >> i certainly believe that without diplomacy and the threat of force, we can't be
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successful. we've got to apply the pressure. more important for me that the united states is a credible military threat against iran. and if diplomacy should fail, it should be the united states that takes the lead in any use of force, not israel. in my view. i think it would be better for israel and israel's long-term strategic interests, and certainly for reasons that dennis explained earlier, the united states has greater military capacity. and the united states can exercise a combination of diplomacy and the threat of force, i think more skillfully and more credibly than anybody else. so frankly, i don't know if that's the right move for us. i mean, dennis is right in one sense. we're sending lots of signals here. we need to in effect intimidate the russians and chinese to make the threat real. they've got to stay with us and not undercut us at these talks, and there's real prospects that china especially could try to do that. on the other hand, i think an early israeli military strike
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would be unwise. certainly unwise in the period of diplomacy, and if diplomacy fails, i would rather see the united states lead. that would be my position on that. >> i agree. i think we should make those transfers, obviously, saying we will helps. actually making the transfers helps more. although i'm inclined to agree with nick that in the end, there's no particular reason this responsibility should fall upon israel and the military outcome would be better if the united states undertook this. >> but there is a general sense, it seems to me, particularly in europe, that the united states is not about to engage in a military effort to contain iran. like it or not. so the question is how does the united states in one curious way, considering its military power, how does it attach that power to a sense of will and a decisiveness to use this within the appropriate framework?
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because there also has to be some degree of, shall we say, confidence on the israeli part, otherwise they will lose their opportunity to do it because of the so-called zone of immunity. >> i would say, again, there are several things that might be done. this transfer has value, as elliot says, verbally or rhetorically, but it also has, if it's actually done, it sends a message in itself that by doing this, not only we fundamentally committed to israeli security, but we're in effect saying that when it commodities comes to the issue of the use of force, we're prepared to support it in the right circumstances. that itself says something of the united states. that's point one. point two, i think we have done an awful lot to build up you our capabilities, our military capabilities in the region. we have very significant air presence in the region all of the time. we've done an enormous amount to build up an integrated early warning capability, a missile
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defense capability, maritime security, infrastructure protection. all of these things, by the way, are visible to the iranians. so the iranians know there is a capability out there. i think that this is another way of underpinning that we are serious when we talk about the nature of the threat and how we approach the threat. now, clearly, there are certain kinds of exercises that can be conducted with the capabilities we have. which send a message to the iranians that this is not just talk. so how you integrate the diplomacy with your military capability has always been the essence of coercive diplomacy, and i think, again, when we look at why are the iranians at the table right now, there's a lot of different factors. many of us have talked about the factors. would i say they're in addition to the pressures they feel from the sanctions, they are acutely aware of a shifting balance of power in the region. they're acutely aware of their
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increasing isolation internationally. and i think that they're also aware that more and more of their capability to threaten their neighbors is being blunted. you put all that together, that's part of conveying an image that we're quite serious about the objectives that we have stated. >> nick? >> i was just going to -- i think it's all well and good to say that israeli shouldn't attack, the united states should. but my personal view is that there is virtually no chance the united states will mount a military effort between now and the u.s. presidential election. but more importantly, i think the iranians believe there is zero chance of that between now and the presidential election. so i'm afraid that that message, as understood in iran, is basically the military pressure is off for the near term, because the americans won't let the israelis do it, and the americans aren't going to do it themselves either. >> my judgment would be that it's likely that 2012 is not going to be the year where military forces seriously entertain. likely it's 2013. a serious attempt at diplomacy.
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steve is going to take us into the summer, into the autumn. it should. i also think more to answer your question you pose to us, president obama took containment off the table. in his march speech to the a peck conference and his very insightful interview with jeff goldberg in the "atlantic" magazine. a little surprising. i thought it was welcome. he closed the gap between the united states and it's really, which was very important to do. and to say that he does not believe in containment means that if diplomacy fails, and our stated policy the last two administrations is to deny iran a nuclear weapons capacity, that does leave us with the use of force. and i thought that was usel. i think that did concentrate the mind of the iranians and was the right step for the president to take. and frankly, also the right step because you don't want to see egypt and turkey and saudi arabia decide they're going to become nuclear weapons powers if we stand by and see iran do it. so my disagreement i guess on the question of israel, what do we offer israel in terms of its
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military capacity, steve, i think we've got to reinforce the israelis, but this has to be an american strategy. and the american strategy has to dictate that the united states should be willing to use force if diplomacy fails. that's what's got to be made more credible. everyone knows the minister of israel is on this. that was the genesis of my remarks. >> i would agree with that. but i think that there is a way of reinforcing the american position, and that is by stronger rhetoric on the part of the president. it was a step forward to say, my policy is not containment. but we're still in the realm of my policy is this, my policy isn't that. all options are on the table. there is a vagueness that should be eliminated. i would like to see the president say something closer, frankly, to what the vice president said on tv over the weekend, which was basically, they're not going to get a nuclear weapon, we'll prevent it, we'll use force if we need to. one or two short sentences, taking the next step.
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the president has been unwilling to take that step, even when the vice president took it. the vice president smoked him out last week on some other major policy issue. but the vice president got ahead of him -- got ahead of him on iran. >> we're not putting those two issues on the same plane. >> the vice president got ahead of him on iran, and the president did not feel the pressure to change his position and get a new one. that's a mistake. because it leaves the iranians wondering, maybe he will, maybe he won't. he ought to be clearer, in my view. that it's not just my policy is not containment. i will prevent iran from getting a nuclear weapon. closer to the language of the carter doctrine of 1979. we will use military force if necessary. >> i respectfully disagree. we did not hear this kind of clear, forceful statement from president obama from his inauguration until march of this year. i heard it and read it in the
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apec speech in the interview with jeff goldberg and in the president conference the president gave, all in the space of three or four days. i think he has made a clear statement, he is willing, he's got israel's back. >> what does that mean, i've got your back? it doesn't mean anything. >> and he said, he is willing to use force, should diplomacy fail. i'm not sure how he could be more clear about this. >> i think he could be as clear as oddly enough the vice president was on "meet the press." >> well -- >> i suspect the vice president's statement was -- >> this time what's clear? >> the vice president's statement was a statement of american policy and the administration's policy. >> i wonder if there is somebody in the audience, since we have a group of very distinguished analysts, and journalists who might want to ask a question. joe and -- >> yeah, it's a question for denny and the whole panel. when you said that the iranians might put something that was attracted to some elements of p-5 plus one, what would that --
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just speculate. it is just speculation, obviously. what might that be? is and the second part of the question is, what would they have to put on the table for you to say, wow, they are really interested this time? this is for the whole panel. >> well, i would say two things. the -- i could envision them offering something on the 20%. that others would look at and say, look, here's a concrete step that they're taking. you know, this really demonstrates that this is for real. let's embrace that. and not only should we embrace it, we need to reward them. because when they do something that's positive, if they don't get a reward, then we're not going to see anymore of it. i could easily envision that kind of a thought process and that line of argumentation. and steve made an interesting point earlier that, so you ratchet something up, and you're
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doing something you shouldn't do in the first place, then getting rewarded for giving up something you shouldn't have done in the first place is not exactly the way i think you proceed to produce an outcome that is actually going to change the situation. and i would say -- >> it works with my daurks daughter, by the way. >> well, mort, that doesn't surprise me. when people ask me, how did you learn to negotiate? i said i have three kids, what do you expect? i do think there is an important measure for us. and it gets back to this issue of the zone of immunity. for the israelis, if you want to put the israelis in a position where diplomacy is not a device that's going to be used to put them in a position where they lose their capacity to exercise military option, you have to stop the clock. so something that would really grab my attention, that would convince me that we are now in a kind of really new situation is one that stops the clock. and stopping the clock goes
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beyond the 20%. it really does mean you should down. it really does mean significant shippout. not only the 20%, but also of the 3.5%, with the kind of transparency measures that puts you in a position where you begin to have a level of confidence that you really are building kind of fire walls, and this is a transformative situation. and they are now prepared to accept what in a sense they claim. if what they want is civil nuclear power, that's something that they -- that you have several administrations be prepared to offer them. if that's what they want, there's a way for them to get that. and that, i think, is the key to having diplomacy work. >> you know, the history here is i think instructive. iran resumed construction on the bu sheer nuclear power reactor in 1995. and for the next ten years, it was a policy of the united states that a civil nuclear program like that in iran was unacceptable, danger to the region.
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and in about 2005 -- well, 2002, the enrichment program was revealed, and our attention immediately shifted from the civil nuclear power plant to the enrichment facility and 2005, we reached the judgment that we were -- basically, the bow sheer plant was almost done, essentially too late. so we essentially signed off as a government. we said, okay, we back down. we are now prepared to accept a civil nuclear reactor at boushire and our focus is on enrichment activity. and since 2002 that has been our focus and is as reflected, we have demanded they suspend enrichment. the iranians, by contrast, since 2002, have had one objective, and that is to gain international acceptance of their enrichment program. and i think they believe that time is on their side, they believe that just as after ten years, we backed down on the question of the boushire civil
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nuclear reactor, they're expecting us to back down on enrichment. maybe -- you know, i think a trade where they back off on the 0%, and we accept the 3.5% enrichment, which has been a dispute for the last ten years. that would be a huge victory for the iranians. i think that's what they're shooting for. and, you know, i'm troubled every time i read some expert commentator saying that's as good a deal as we're going to get, let's take it. i mean, we will see how these negotiations play out. but the zone of immunity is clearly a motivator. i worry it's a motivator for the obama administration. they don't want the israelis to strike. and a deal on the 20% that ostensibly addresses israeli concerns about the zone of immunity, but hows the 3.5% enrichment to continue unimpeded, i'm sure if that happens, it won't be presented to the world as the final deal. it will be presented as some sort of interim step that is
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laying the ground work for further diplomatic progress. but for all the reasons that it might be a good deal when it's accepted by the international community, i don't know what would change in six months or a year. and, you know, at every step in the process, we would confront the question of, well, if we let this process break down, they're going to resume 20% enrichment, go into the zone of immunity. we can't let that happen. we have to keep this process alive. i think that in the real world translates to the interim deal becoming the permanent deal and iran achieving what it's been seeking to achieve since 2002, which is international acceptance, if not explicitly, then at least implicitly, of their uranium enrichment program. >> nick? >> i'm obviously more sympathetic. i look for three factors. first, dennis said, will iran be willing to give up its stock of 20% enriched uranium and verifiably give that up, transfer it. that would move the time line to the right, it would give you
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some space, but wouldn't resolve the problem we're trying to resolve. second, will iran agree to suspend its enrichment program during the course of the negotiations? that was the position of the p-5 plus one as publicly expressed on june 1st, 2006 when we made our first negotiating offer. and that offer was, i thought, quite logical. we would suspend the sanctions for the course of the they kboegss. iran would suspend its enrichment. that would be a very strong indication that iran was serious. i doubt that iran will agree to that. third, and i think steve is right to be concerned. where is the potential deal here between 0 and 3.5? will iran be willing to agree to intrusive 24/7 iaea inspections? they haven't been? iaea inspectors haven't been in the plant, the one that president obama revealed publicly in autumn of 2009, and iran has been playing fast and loose.
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i think the administration is going to play on all three of the counts, i think. how much they'll get is uncertain. >> i would just add, i think the inspection point is important. it looks as if the iranians are going to give up on keeping the iaea out, because there is indication they're cleaning the place up. but intrusive inspections, signing additional protocol would be key signs that iran is actually stopping. >> let me understand one point. there is no doubt in my mind there is a difference between doing a whole deal and an interim step. one of the reasons you would still accept an interim step is because the iranians aren't going to get the kind of sanctions they want or need. so it seems to me when you're looking at this, you have to look at it from both sides. and i don't mean our side and their side. but i am -- what i do mean, an interim step under certain circumstances could make sense, because it doesn't mean we give up our leverage. >> in theory, that's true. but i think we have to see what
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an actual deal would look like. i -- >> i agree with that. >> i suspect the iranians want substantial sanctions before agreeing to export 20% material or 3.5% material. >> i agree with that. although joe -- the essence of joe's question, what would be the kind of things that would demonstrate a degree of seriousness, and i think what you're saying to all of us is a kind of menu of that. >> i always have a theory, you don't go to a doctor where his office plants have died. you have to find plants, things that work here. and we've tried a lot of things that haven't worked. and we're in a worse position now than we have been before. but let's go to another question. just -- >> i'm going to keep that in mind. >> well, to follow in the same vain, mr. zuckerman asked a very good question about what do we need to see on may 23rd that is enough to validate this process and keep it going. nick burns came closest to a specific answer, and said something that sounded a little bit like, well, suspension of iranian enrichment potentially
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in the same kind of freeze for freeze idea that was on the table before. i don't know if that's what you meant. the rest of you sort of listed, as you said, the menu of desires on the part of the p-5 plus one. what would be, from the rest of you, a sufficient iranian showing on may 23rd to keep this process going? >> go ahead. i'm sorry. getting instructions. >> i think i'm really -- pretty much where nick is. i don't have an expectation somehow you have a breakthrough on may 23rd. and i don't think we should set ourselves up for that being the standard. i do think what i would view may 23rd as being another indication that maybe this is a process that actually can be serious and lead somewhere. would be the following. one, that on the substance of the issues, meaning the issue of
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transparency in a meaningful way is on the table. and it isn't just access to -- it's suddenly the additional protocol is something that the iranians are prepared to say, all right, this is something we will -- we are prepared to pursue, but also there's a definition of what it means in practice. the additional protocol sounds great in theory. i think you have to begin to talk about what this would mean in practice. also, some of the other specific elements of confidence builders. 20% but also ship out, and not only 20%, but 3.5 as well. these would be important to me. i would add one other thing. i don't understand -- this is not a serious process if it meets once a month. and the point is, there should be a sense of urgency. so there should be an ongoing set of discussions in the aftermath of this. this should not be, you meet once a month and maybe you have some preparatory stuff in between. there should be -- i would say there should be an ongoing set of discussions that are based on
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an agenda that comes out of this, and they're tied specifically to some of the issues put on the table, whether it's the additional protocol or ship-out. i think these are things that would tell me now we're in a very -- now this is actually a serious process. and it gives me a higher level of confidence that at least we're going to be able to determine one way or the other whether it's going to produce an outcome. >> i would just say, i think it would be unfair to judge the administration on concrete, specific progress on may 23rd. i don't think it's going to happen. what would normally happen in a negotiation like this, and the four of us have been involved in this for a long time, and i'm sure the administration is doing, this you draw essentially a picture in the first meeting in istanbul and the second meeting in baghdad, whether it's chronological or narrative and say -- and this would be the p-5, here, iran, is where we want these negotiations to end. are you willing to commit to a process to get there? and an early indication might be if the iranians quit the talks,
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because they're not willing to go down that road. or that they read them out in a very negative way. but i think for -- i certainly wouldn't want the to be party to a process to say that the president has got to produce x, y or z in a second meeting. but i would agree with dennis. since we can't stay there forever, and we've got to be very conscious of not allowing the iranians to run out the clock on us, i would think that we would want to go at this on a permanent basis, daily, weekly, interactions and meetings and pressure on the iranians, all throughout the summer. i wouldn't want to see meetings scheduled once a month. >> steve and then elliot. >> just echo that point. you know, i think the real question here is are the iranians serious about negotiating a deal or are they making a play for time? and, you know, first negotiation was in istanbul. then they wanted five weeks to the next meeting and then they said that meeting has got to be in baghdad of all places and maybe the next meeting in damascus and i don't know, kandahar -- i don't know where
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the next one is suppose to be. >> atlantic city. >> why five weeks. you know, i think a more condensed negotiating schedule would be suggestive of a genuine desire on their part to work out a deal. i think also we need to be very mindful of the history here. and nick will -- can testify to this. the iranians have quite a history of receiving a negotiating proposal from our side and saying, oh, this is very complicated, we need to study this. and we'll get back to you as soon as we finish studying it, and three months go by and then we get a one-page reaction. i would be on the lookout for that. i think if it does get serious, we will present them a piece of paper. and can they respond quickly and seriously or does that become a pretext for months upon months of delay. >> of course, i agree. actually, the may 23rd talks were initially scheduled to be a little bit earlier in may and were delayed partly because of lady ashton's schedule. that cannot happen.

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